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Agricultural News

Sustainability in the Beef Business: It Means Different Things to Different People

Wed, 29 Jan 2014 11:53:14 CST

Sustainability in the Beef Business:  It Means Different Things to Different People
Most cattlemen have an ultimate goal of passing their ranch on to the next generation. New research says sharing that ideal might actually boost beef demand, too.

Kim Stackhouse-Lawson says sustainability is a buzzword without a firm definition, but that opens the door for cattlemen and women.

"The consumers are very confused about sustainability so we really have an opportunity with beef to help drive a lot of the conversations about sustainability and to help consumers understand the context in which we think it's important to talk about."

In their research, many consumers defined sustainability as an ability to reuse a product, but others related it to shelf life or freshness. The most powerful message connected to sustainability revolved around families and land stewardship.

"In the beef industry we define sustainability as balancing environmental responsibility, economic opportunity, and social diligence. To the producers who are at home, this is really about continuing to leave ranches from generation to generation, improving their livelihood, and contributing and providing for their local communities."

There are many components in day-to-day practices on the ranch that show sustainability whether cattlemen realize it or not says John Robinson, director of organizational communications for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.

"Profitability is one of those things that is really important to our industry and, unfortunately, that's not a message that resonates with consumers. But, things like improving efficiency and health and animal welfare, those are things that producers are doing a great job at and I would encourage them to continue that because those are really pieces of sustainability where they can have an impact and really make a difference in the minds of consumers."

Beef buyers really like the fact that 97 percent of all farms and ranches are family-owned. Stackhouse says that her research indicates that sustainability wasn't really important enough to be a demand driver, but the absence of the term in beef marketing was enough to be a demand burier.

"So, it's something that consumers think is important, but they may not pay more for it. What it gives us is an opportunity to build trust with our consumers in regards to beef. "

Cattlemen who target specific, trusted brand names for their end product get a leg up on the competition in this area, too, Robinson says.

"I really think a brand like Certified Angus Beef, one of the most-trusted brands in the beef industry, has a part to play in the sustainability story. Licensees, retailers, wholesalers, restaurants, they're really the last, final link in that chain between beef producers and consumers and there are very trusted in their message to consumers that quality, that consumers can trust that. They can do a good job telling our story and helping us reach out and bridge the gap between the beef producer and the consumer."



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